Deb says a year ago, she discovered her husband, David’s, tangled web of lies and sexual affairs that spanned more than a decade — and she believes he’s cheated on her at least 1,000 times. David admits he had several inappropriate relationships with other women, but claims he only had two physical affairs, and he’s ended it all.
He says Deb’s obsession with proving he’s still unfaithful is destroying their marriage. Can this relationship be saved? Then, Brettania says for the past decade, she has spent countless hours on the Internet, obsessively looking up symptoms and diagnosing herself with various illnesses, including a brain aneurism, throat cancer and liver disease. She’s convinced she has had every disorder in the book, yet she admits she’s too scared to see a doctor for confirmation. Dr. Phil calls on Dr. Freda Lewis-Hall, Chief Medical Officer of Pfizer (GetHealthyStayHealthy.com), to help Brettania overcome her Internet-fueled hypochondria, known as “cyberchondria.” What’s at the root of her anxiety? And, should you turn to the Internet for medical questions?
A Shocking Secret Life?
Deb explains how looking at a phone bill tipped her off to her husband’s infidelity. Deb says the phone records were just the tip of the iceberg compared to what she discovered on a secret flash drive that David kept on him at all times. “One morning, David couldn’t find his flash drive,” she recalls. “He was frantic, and red in the face and sweaty, so he left for work, and I went looking and found it. I plugged it in to the computer and was shocked to see what I saw. A huge file, huger than huge, and it contained photos, videos, social contacts, email addresses, computer manipulations. They were encrypted. I knew exactly what the files were. He had been saving, collecting, modifying, adding to this huge file since 1996, and there he was in 2014, carrying it in his pocket.”
David admits that he hasn’t been faithful but says Deb is exaggerating the truth and refuses to just move on and get over it.
David claims all the other women knew he was married, but Deb says she called some of them, and each woman she talked to seemed surprised that they weren’t the only one.
Dr. Phil asks whether David told some women that his wife was mentally ill, and whether he also looked at sex ads on Craigslist. David admits the first claim but denies that he’s ever been on Craigslist looking for sex.
Deb says she spent the last year tracking her husband on his computer, and Craigslist is one of the sites he visits, including ads for sex.
“I did not do any of that,” he says.
Deb expresses doubt that her husband’s transgressions have really ended. She says she recently found a new account set up in his name but says David blamed it on a hacker.
David offers to take a polygraph test to prove he’s innocent. “Since this all came out in February, I have literally stopped cold turkey,” he tells Dr. Phil. “I’m saying on national TV, since this came out in February, I have not texted anyone, I have not been on Facebook, I have not [instant messaged] anyone, I have not called anyone or emailed anyone.”
After reviewing a few written exchanges between David and another woman, David says, “There is no justification I can give.”
Dr. Phil asks him, “Do you think you’re emotionally crippled in some way?”
“If you actually know a lot about my past, yeah,” he says. David says he’s seeing a therapist and that counseling is helping.
Deb disagrees. “What have you done to show me any effort, any insight, any thoughts, any feelings?” she asks David, adding that he tells her, “‘Just get over it, Debbie. You’re the problem!’”
Dr. Phil turns to Deb. “Then why are you still here?” he asks.
“I’d start looking for the door,” Dr. Phil tells Deb. “I’d start figuring a way to save myself mentally and emotionally, because your self-esteem is on the floor, your self-worth on the floor. You deserve better than you’re getting. Stand up and command respect; and you can’t do that if you don’t get some help. I will get you some very specific help with finding yourself again.”
Deb tearfully nods.
Brettania says for the past decade, she has spent countless hours on the Internet, obsessively looking up symptoms and diagnosing herself with various illnesses, including a brain aneurism, throat cancer and liver disease. She’s convinced she has had every disorder in the book, yet she admits she’s too scared to see a doctor for confirmation. Dr. Phil calls on Dr. Freda Lewis-Hall, Chief Medical Officer of Pfizer, to help Brettania overcome her Internet-fueled hypochondria, known as “cyberchondria.” What’s at the root of her anxiety? And, should you turn to the Internet for medical questions? For more information, visit GetHealthyStayHealthy.com.
“I wake up every day with anxiety at the thought of being ill. I don’t ever feel like I’m fine,” Brettania says. “I always think there’s going to be something wrong with me. I always think to myself, is today your last day? If I’m having symptoms, I’ll go on the Internet, through my iPhone, my laptop. I mean, I could spend an hour to two hours looking it up. It’s always at my fingertips, so I look it up anytime I have spare time.”
She continues, “A few weeks ago, I scratched my neck, and then I felt something. I was definitely sure it was throat cancer. I looked up ‘lump on side of neck.’ The other morning I woke up, these three fingers were numb and tingly. I panicked and told my fiancé, ‘This is a heart attack.’ And he said, ‘I doubt you’re having a heart attack.’ Then I thought, that’s symptoms of MS. I’ve also diagnosed myself with a brain aneurysm, brain cancer, breast cancer, liver and kidney damage, tonsil cancer, gum cancer. I can’t tell if it’s just the anxiety that’s making it worse or the actual symptoms are getting worse. I don’t discuss this with anyone because I don’t want people to think, ‘That girl’s a lunatic,’ because I’m not.”
Dr. Phil reassures Brettania that she’s not a lunatic, but says she may be highly suggestible. He asks her why she won’t see a doctor, and she says, “I just figure if I walk into a doctor’s office, it’s going to be bad news.”
Brettania’s father, Kyle, says his daughter spent a lot of time with doctors when she was young, because she was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis. And Brettania adds that at 22, she was diagnosed with a new arthritis in her spine called ankylosing spondylitis, which will never go away.